Discussion Topic

Adult daughter of bipolar mother

Posted on 03/28/09, 10:39 pm
Hello, I am twenty six years old and my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just a few years ago. It was not surprising, since all of my life, I had watched her go through mood swings on a daily basis. Her daily yelling and crying was terrifying when I was child, and haunts me still. It has been strange to learn after all this time that it has been caused by a medical condition. All this time, I had just assumed it was something she could have controlled but chose not to, and I couldn't understand why. I would like to get over certain feelings I have in order to help her, but it is really hard because they have been built up over my entire life. For most of my life, I didn't know her behavior was beyond her control, so I just assumed for years that she didn't care about what she put my brother and father and I through. The following things are what I am struggling to overcome, and I would love to hear the thoughts of anyone else in this group:

1. I feel angry, even though I know I shouldn't. I feel like my mom is allowed to say or do anything she wants, no matter how hurtful it is, to those around her, and then can tell me that I have to accept it and understand it because she is bipolar and cannot help it. Can a bipolar person be expected to apologize, to empathize with the difficulties their loved ones feel? Are their loved ones required to bear this kind of treatment, even though the person can't help what they are doing? For me, I feel that I have no closure when such a thing occurs, because she can just say "I am bipolar, I can't help it" as a way out of every single thing that happens. There is no apology or reassurance that can come from her. This is frustrating and incredibly painful for me.

2. I am resentful because my childhood was filled with fear, and that has been hard to heal in my adult life, especially without my mother's ability to acknowledge what my brother and I had to go through. As a child, I never knew when my mother's temper or crying was going to explode. I never knew what was going to set her off. If I dropped something and broke it, she might start slapping my face or pulling my hair, or calling me swear words. Or sometimes, if we were at a grocery store, she would burst into crying and yelling in the middle of the store if she was upset about something. Everyone in the store would stare at us, and it made me feel like they thought we were abnormal and were judging us. It felt embarrassing. I never wanted to invite my friends to my house, because I knew my mother would yell and cry in front of them, and it embarassed me. Especially because none of my friends' moms behaved in this way. I often wondered what I had done to get a mom who didn't seem to love me like other kids' moms did. (Not that my mom never did anything kind toward me. It was just that the fear and physical/verbal abuse tended to put a dark cloud over everything else.)

3. As an adult, I feel resentment on a different level. I live in a different state than my mother, but she calls me all the time and leaves crying messages on my answering machine or voice mail. This has been embarassing when I have shared a phone with roommates. It is also wearying, because I feel like she calls me with the same life problems all the time, the same things she's been unable to change my whole life. I feel like she expects me to fix her problems, and not only can I not fix those things for her, but I feel like she doesn't even try the suggestions I have given her over and over again, so I feel frustrated. I really wish she would call her psychiatrist when she is feeling so stuck, because I am not a trained mental health professional, and I feel absolutely helpless to do anything for her, so it just upsets me and makes me feel frustrated. Moreover, I just want to feel like I am the daughter and she is the mother, but all my life, I have felt it is the other way around.

4. I feel like a monster, because when my mother cries, I feel numb. I feel all love and sympathy disappear, even though I know now that she has bipolar disorder. I feel like years and years of this have made my heart cold to her crying. In fact, the sound of her crying makes me feel like some people feel when they hear nails scratching a chalkboard. I know that when she cries, it is probably the time she needs my support the most, but for me, it is the time when I want to run as far away from her as possible. I feel guilty and frustrated because of this.

5. Inevitably, once every other year or so, I finally lose my patience and get in a full blown argument with her. In most cases, I would just make excuses for why I can't stay on the phone with her, or I would just avoid her phone calls for a while, but sometimes, she says something so hurtful or so down-on-herself that I can't take it anymore and all my resentment pours out in brutal honesty. This makes her feel hurt/judged, etc., and a huge argument ensues. These arguments are so bad and emotionally draining for both of us that I just wonder, would it be better if I just took myself out of my mom's life entirely? If I can't support her in the way that she needs, am I causing more harm than good? (She and I have major personality differences to start with, bipolar disorder aside, and it seems that many things about my opinions and beliefs are offensive to her and only aggravate her mood.) Like a coward, sometimes I just want to run away from her forever. Sometimes I never want to call her again, never want to hear her crying again. I know she has an illness and should be sympathized with, but so much emotional damage had been done in our family before we knew that she had an illness that I feel most of the time that it is impossible to undo.

6. My mom always says she needs support and help from others, but then takes every suggestion I give her as an attack on who she is. As I try to explain that I didn't mean what I said the way she took it, she starts saying things like "well, I guess I'm just a horrible mother" or "I guess the world would be better of without me" or "why did God have to make me this way?" or "I'm sorry I'm not normal like so-and-so". When she says these things, I feel a complex mix of emotions. I feel frustrated that she thinks other think so badly of her. I feel sad that she thinks I think so badly of her. I feel annoyed, because it seems like she is trying to force me to give her compliments or reassurance instead of saying what is really on my mind. And I feel like giving up, because I've heard her say these things a thousand times before and I almost just don't care anymore, I'm so frustrated with it.

Is there anyone else that can give me some advice? If you are a person with bipolar disorder, or a family member of a person with bipolar disorder, I would love to hear your perspective.

Thank you!
Showing 1 - 10 of 22 Replies
  • Reply #1 11/25/09  4:39pm
    hi blueox...i can so empathize with you and identify with how you are feeling about being raised by a bp mom...i raised 2 children and i have bp...i fought meds the whole time, and finally, my children are now 17 and 20, finally after all these painful years...after all i put them through...finally i am taking the meds and trying to take responsibility for my behavior and not blaming everything on my illness...i swear, hearing your story sounds so much like what my children would say..thy have so much pain from being raised by an unmedicated bp mom..and to think, all i would hve needed to do is swallow a few pills everyday which would have avoided so so much unnecessary pain and hurt...unfortunatly , like you said, you always feel like the mom, and you feel like she is the daughter...when a parent is bp...it seems that the children become parentified..they actually start taking the role of a parent...and all they yearn for is to have a parent...my kids took this role with me...

    my two children now live with my mom, i just recently started taking the meds faithfully, so they don't trust me , or what i'm gona do next , or if i'm going to go into a full blown episode...they prefer living with my mom and find it stable there...i feel so much pain becauser i feel like i have missed out on so much of my kids lives , even though they lived with me most of the time..and i feel like they missed out on hagving a stable, sane mom...

    i know my kids always felt embarrassed too, to have their friends over, they felt like our house was so much different then the friend's houses they visigted...i even think sometimes they thought i didn't care or love them like their friends' parents loved their friiends..i think they felt very alone, and different....even though i loved them all of the time, i was just so so sick....

    blue , is your mom taking any meds at all? if she is seeking treatment..and sticking to it, then maybe yhou cuold little by little try and forgive her and give her a chance..i know this takes time because there are so many scars.....but little by little;...

    if your mom is not getting treatment..then maybe you should encourage her to, and maybe keep a distance until she tells u she is getting treatment...without treatment...without meds....nothing, unfortunatly is going to change...

    people urged me for years to get on meds, but i fought it so much...now, i am finally on meds, and taking them faithfully, and my life, and i am changing so much...

    i am here anytime you need someone to talk to blue..i so wish my kids would come on this website and see your post, i know they would be able to identify so so much..but right now they want nothing to do with my website, and just keep thinkikng i'm the same old crazy person..i pray one day they will see the change in me....

    peace for u blue,,,,please, i would love to hear from u sometime...get in touch...xoxo, maggie
  • Reply #2 07/09/10  2:39am
    It's been way over a year since you posted this about your feelings toward your mom & I totally agree. I have been having similar feelings for too many years and have gone through so many different emotions toward my mom with bp disorder. I get extremely anxious and upset any time she wants to talk to me or see me. I was looking for information to help me with my emotions towards her & found your post to be helpful. I feel like I'm giving up on her now and really do not want a relationship anymore. I feel like giving up and not having a relationship with my mom is not correct- but I don't know any other solution to my agony.
  • Reply #3 09/20/10  1:05pm
    I was searching to find someone that can relate to me and you all seem like you've developed similar feelings that i have. I have a bipolar dad who I have gotten so distant from over the years due to his disease. My parents divorced when I was about 10 and when I was 13 me and my dad got into a huge argument in which he screamed and hit me (over virtually nothing, but my dad made a huge ordeal bc of his illness) and I stopped seeing him for ~2 years. I realize that my dad has this illness but he can control his anger around people he doesnt know so its very hard for me to accept that his temper "isn't his fault". I love my dad and never stopped, we had a great relationship when he wasn't in his manic episodes. Currently I'm 20 and see my dad once a month for dinner. I despise that this is all the relationship we can have, I wish we could be closer but I can't see that happening without getting hurt. If anyone feels similar to me and would like to share, please email me @ sarahg1018@yahoo.com. Id love to find someone that can relate and help each other to understand our parents.
  • Reply #4 09/20/10  1:05pm
    I was searching to find someone that can relate to me and you all seem like you've developed similar feelings that i have. I have a bipolar dad who I have gotten so distant from over the years due to his disease. My parents divorced when I was about 10 and when I was 13 me and my dad got into a huge argument in which he screamed and hit me (over virtually nothing, but my dad made a huge ordeal bc of his illness) and I stopped seeing him for ~2 years. I realize that my dad has this illness but he can control his anger around people he doesnt know so its very hard for me to accept that his temper "isn't his fault". I love my dad and never stopped, we had a great relationship when he wasn't in his manic episodes. Currently I'm 20 and see my dad once a month for dinner. I despise that this is all the relationship we can have, I wish we could be closer but I can't see that happening without getting hurt. If anyone feels similar to me and would like to share, please email me @ sarahg1018@yahoo.com. Id love to find someone that can relate and help each other to understand our parents.
  • Reply #5 09/25/10  2:15pm
    I feel the same as you katbirdpi - I don't want to give up on my mother or our relationship, but right now I don't see another way. It's a sad state of affairs, but she needs to understand where her life ends, and mine begins. The line got blurred.
  • Reply #6 09/28/10  4:03pm
    Hi SarahG & MunkeyFoot,

    SarahG- don't be so hard on yourself- I think you are doing great given the circumstances. Seeing your dad once a month for dinner is VERY good. I think that should be enough- even though u want more. Someday- you will have a family of your own that will give you much joy and fill the voids that you feel. If you don't end up with a family of your own- there are always church families, great friends, etc. And you are right about how they can control themselves around others. Honestly it took my husband of 18 years to see her extremes as I do. She hides them so well- but in January when she forced me to take care of her after a surgery- my husband got to see several of her episodes for himself. He's known for years that she is has bipolar but he now sees why & exactly first hand how it can effect me. I don't understand how someone can treat a spouse and/or children so poorly and at the same time treat everyone else completely different. It's bizzare- almost like scitzophrenia or some other kind of wierd phsycosis.

    MunkeyFoot- Good point- you are right- she wants to be me and wants to live my life- but she has made poor decisions that have left her unhappy. My mom doesn't have a normal "life" with friends and things to do. All of my friends that have met her think she's normal and great. She mostly talks about me and brings up stories of my life- she doesn't have anything to say about the world, her own ideas, or things she's into.
    I'm finding that we are feeling so much guilt for our feelings towards our bipolar parents. These feelings makes us try hard to connect with them- but then it eventually continues the cylce of them loosing control & compromising our relationship again. I think we've got to understand that we don't need to feel guilty- because the love that we have never ceased. Our bipolar parents have a way of getting under our skin and making us feel the guilt. I find that as long as my mom takes her meds regularly and she's not having a mini crisis in her life- she's ok to be around. Anytime she has a mini crisis she goes to the extreme. Most people have mini crisis and it doesn't effect them much- like a flat tire or bounced check. Also bipolar patients can't stay on their meds regularly- it's part of the disease it seems. I have heard that bipolar patients actually get a "high" whenever they go off their meds. So if we realize that we are never going to have them take their meds regularly and they will always go bazerk during mini crisis- we need to keep our distance or forever be enslaved to this cycle.

    I actually have distanced myself from my mom since my last post in July. I started by not taking her calls- this bugs her and she ends up leaving 10 messages and calling 20 times in a row. I eventually answer and she yells- but I tell her I was extremely busy, etc. I cannot tell her the truth- I have in the past and it goes nowhere. She also has extreme lapses in memory- and probably doesn't remember my true feelings I shared with her in January. By bringing up the real reason I am avoiding her- I spare myself another episode from her. She still calls and actually still wants to come see me- (live 2 hrs away) but I keep coming up with excuses. I have to keep my distance for my sanity and am trying to convince myself that I am not at fault for this. It really ruins my day or week sometimes when she calls- even if she's nice- because it triggers old pent up feelings I have from her past episodes. I feel like my life otherwise is great- but feel slightly handicapped because I've always have these feelings on the backburner and have my gard up constantly. Oh and by the way- when she calls 20 times in a row to tell me something it seriously is something trivial... i.e. that the actress Molly Ringwall turned 40 or to ask me what size shoe one of my kids wears. She's just using that as an excuse to get back into being close to me. I just can't take the epidodes anymore!
  • Reply #7 09/30/10  6:23pm
    katbirdpi - I kind of followed your lead and stopped immediatly responding to my mother's texts and calls. I have a very active life and she needs to understand that everything doesn't stop because she's bored and just wants to see what I'm doing. I also try to give her hints that I'm not available to chit chat without coming right out and saying something that could be misinterpreted, and hurt her feelings. For example, on Sunday I was hanging out with my husband (that's our day and she knows this and used to acknowledge it and leave me alone, but lately things have changed) and she started texting me with "Hi, what are you doing?". So, I simply responded "Just spending my normal Sunday with Dave". She got the hint and said something to the extent of "That's good, talk to you later". I felt kind of good at this interaction.

    I feel bad that she doesn't have anyone to talk to and she hates her husband most of the time, but I can't take those problems on anymore. I'm the child, not the parent. She has to stop coming to me with all the problems from her life, but what am I supposed to do? I'm 28, married, and trying to forge my own way. Why doesn't she understand?
  • Reply #8 03/04/11  9:56pm
    Thank you to all of you who have posted your feelings about your lack of relationship with your bp parent. I really needed to read and learn that I am not alone.
  • Reply #9 03/04/11  9:56pm
    please update your life today if at all possible thx
  • Reply #10 04/23/11  6:14am
    Hello everyone. I want to first start by saying that I understand how everyone is feeling here. My mother is also bipolar. She was unmedicated for years of my life. So much of my childhood (although it was not totally bad, just that a lot of the good parts are overshadowed by the bad) was horrible for my father and I. My mother started acting very strange when I was in about 6th grade and she was unmedicated until about two years ago. I am 23. I had to deal with her mood swings, verbal abuse (never physical), fighting between my mother and father, and no ability to control it or to know what to expect. I came home for years worrying that I would come home to find her dead in the house. I was so afraid that she would kill herself.

    Her bipolar got worse and worse as the years went on. It was probably its worse when I was in college, a few years ago. This was horrible for my father. I was lucky to be living at school. I would come home on the weekends occasionally and she would sleep in my room, talking to herself all night. I would be forced to sleep on the couch. She would carry a wooden dagger with her and sleep with it under her pillow. I had to deal with all of this, and my father as well. We felt powerless to do anything with the situation. My mother, at this point, had been hospitalized once forcibly and had tried a plethora of medications to no avail.

    My father began to basically live out of the house and essentially moved in with his girlfriend. My mother could not live in another house so she stayed in her room most of the days, locked in. She never wanted to leave. When she did leave, it was 3 oclock in the morning and she would speed off at 80 mph down our residential street. My dad and I tried to follow her once but she drove too fast for us.

    My father lived in the house but spent a lot of time at his girlfriend house. He was with her for 2 years.

    I was ostracized from my mothers side of the family for years. My mother used to tell me that my father was having sex with other women, and would accuse me of having sex with my father. This obvisouly never happened. My father never cheated on my mother until he met his girlfriend.

    Eventually, my father and mother divorced...about a year and a half ago.

    My father was going to marry his girlfriend and then decided that they needed to break up after 2 years. At this point,my father was helping my mother a lot, and she was getting better as the court forced her to take medication. She eventually found a medication that really helped her. This whole time I was confused by the entire situation. My mother moved out, got an apartment, and my father was over the apartment all the time.

    Eventually, about 6 months ago, my mother and father remarried. They are now living in the house again, together.

    So, as you can see, my life is pretty dysfunctional. I am currently living in Spain. I've realized recently that I had been fleeing my problems for years. I smoked a lot of marijuana, drank to excess, and left the country. I need to face my own demons, which I am going to do when I get home. I plan on seeing a therapist and potentially getting an anxiety/depression medication. I have lived my life afraid that I am bipolar like my mother and that I will have to go through what she went through. I live my life thinking about this every day. It haunts me. I am terrified that I will end up like her. I've gone to therapy a total of about 5 times in my life, which helped for a while but at this point in time I never wanted to take medication. Now, after living in Spain for 7 months, I do feel like I need medication. I tried to cut down on drinking and tried for a marathon, which helped to improve my mood. I have a boyfriend here in Spain who came with me from the states, and I feel like sometimes my own mood problems affect the way I treat him. I am terrified that I am bipolar. If not bipolar, I definitely have severe anxiety issues and have had them my entire life. I've recently started having horrible thoughts. These thoughts,however,I feel are seperated from me in a way. It's as though I have horrible thoughts because my mind is telling me that I am a horrible person and then I think bad things to confirm that idea. It's really pretty messed up. I just feel like I have not grown into a matured adult, an adult with emotional facultiies that are well developed. I feel like I was stunted by this whole past. I've thought about commiting suicide but have never actually tried. I feel like once I am on a proper medication, I will feel so much better and stop livingmy life in a cloud of depression and anxiety. My life is further complicated by the fact that I consider myself bisexual but am living with my boyfriend and I love him dearly. This makes my life very confusing as well.

    If anyone has any advice, I would really appreciate it.

    This website will help provide some sense of community and understanding before I arrive back in the states and go to therapy. It is so helpful to read what other people have written about their experiences.

    One thing I do know, THINGS GET BETTER.

    When my life was at its absolute worst, it took a turn for the better.

    Please, have hope.

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This is a place where those of us who have Parents struggling with Bipolar.I have started this group because my Dad is very sick and I myself have so many questions and need support.So I figured I can't be the only one who is going through this tramatic time.Everyday I wake up hoping to hear the life and soul put back into my Father.It's been three months now.Still haven't found meds that work.It is so hard to feel so helpless,I want nothing more than to see my strong,funny,happy